Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably noticed the Rugby World Cup has been taking place. And if you haven’t….what are you doing? Even if you haven’t, I would advise you not to switch off and stop reading just because you don’t understand rugby.
This isn’t just about rugby, it’s about the link between players, referees, governing bodies and organisations. And their allegiances, expectations and support networks. And how to deal with disappointment.
I must first caveat this article. I am a Scotland fan. I am gutted, absolutely gutted with how the boys ended up. So I’m going to try and be objective.
So, brief background if you aren’t familiar. This weekend was quarter final weekend. England were already out (LOL) but there were 4 straight Northern vs Southern Hemisphere battles ahead. So 4 hopes. And then 3. And then 2. And then finally, Scotland against Australia. The last chance. An Australia who had demolished both England and then Wales, who couldn’t even get a try past a 13 man team, so strong was their defence.
Basically, they had been written off from the start. But then magical things started to happen. And then more magic. And suddenly we were a point ahead going into the final minutes of the match, at a very rainy Twickenham.
But it didn’t go the way of the Scots (how many times have I heard that before) – a penalty given, Foley slots 3 points and that is that. Boo. Hopes over.
Outrage ensued, multiple replays of the penalty, ex players hurling abuse left right and centre…and then World Rugby announced that they would be doing a full review of the refereeing performance. And it turned out that that penalty shouldn’t have been a penalty. Imagine how that feels.
HOWEVER. The controversy was the penalty decision. Should it have been one? (No) No-one knew. And the fact that referee Joubert was all too eager to leave the pitch without so much as a nod of the head towards the players showed that he in fact did know. Watching the replays, he knew that his split second decision wasn’t the right one. And he got himself out of there pronto.
But also, how does that feel for Joubert? Being an international referee can hardly be easy. You have some support, like assistants who are all too eager to dive in now and again when they spot things (ahem yellow cards and accidental knock ons) ,as well as the television match offical, who is apparently never going to strike the balance between too much and not enough. But were any of them EVER going to put their necks on the line in a situation like this? Of course not. This was down to Joubert, he wasn’t getting any support and if he didn’t see it properly, he had to make a call as best he could. And get hounded for it.
Players make mistakes. Referees make mistakes. So is life. And there wouldn’t be a game to enjoy without either. But I think what needs to be done is the acknowledgement of mistakes. Now I don’t know what Joubert may say in a statement later this week (because I can’t imagine he is just going to let this character assassination sweep under the rug) but it’s a bit out of the spirit of the game. Rugby is known for its respect towards the referees. And this will have totally wrecked that respect for some. Was Joubert really so fearful of what might happen in a hostile environment that he legged it as soon as he possibly could? Or was this just the behaviour of a man who knew that his one decision had cost what is potentially the chance of a lifetime for some of these players and simply didn’t know how to respond to them…whichever it was, the running off the pitch fuelled the fire even more.
- The TMO isn’t and couldn’t have been used for this kind of issue so Joubert didn’t really have much of a choice. HOWEVER could he have asked to see the replay a few more times?
- So is the real problem TMO?
- The Scotland team shouldn’t have tried a long ball in the line out in that weather
- Even if it had been a scrum…they still would have had to produce the scrum of their lives, or win back the ball without incurring a penalty (easier said than done)
I kind of thought World Rugby were there to support referees. Their incredibly swift reaction to this (after first saying ‘maybe he was running to the bathroom’ ?!) makes me unsure if it was really supportive behaviour – nothing can be done now so surely let it lie until post tournament and then conduct a review? Or do we need to go deeper into the laws of the game and better, more clearly defined use of technology now we have it available?
He made a mistake. It’s probably had a significant impact on his career…he has been overlooked for the semi-finals and I think that the final clearly has Nigel Owens’ name on it, but I’m hoping he’s going to have the sense, courage and remorse to come out and say it. Because that’s what people appreciate in this game. Honesty and respect.
But it doesn’t change the fact that we should be battling it out against Argentina this weekend (a game I would have given us a fair shot at) rather than rueing what might have been…